So more often than not, I find my “blocks” are not so much in finding creative ideas, although that does happen, as they are in getting stuck on exactly which direction to go. And that can be paralyzing. I can get to the end of a week and find the list of things I wanted to work on has not changed. At all. So what to do?
1. Throw perfection out the window – I often want to make it right the first time, and come up with this amazing piece, instead of just trying out ideas and working through different processes. I KNOW I will learn in the midst of mistakes and imperfection, but I can still get stuck on starting something for that reason.
2. Make a list of ideas – I try to write down ideas I have in a notebook that is small enough to carry with me and that I can reference later. That way I don’t worry about loosing an idea. If I don’t have the notebook, I’ll email myself from my phone. If I’m on the computer and see something that inspires me, I’ll take a screen shot of it and put it in a folder on my desktop called “projects”. Sometimes I’ll print those out and put them in my notebook to keep it all in one place. Additionally, starting with small projects will often provide a sense of accomplishment that will make you want to keep going.
3. Schedule time – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said “today I’m going to make x” and then the end of the day comes and … nothing. Although the I-do-it-when-I’m-in-the-mood artist would like to say otherwise, there are times, MANY times, when scheduling is necessary. Art is a discipline, no matter what the type. Like anything, start small. Pick 30 minutes in a day to work on a project and if it ends up being longer, fabulous. If not, keep the schedule going the next day. If you don’t know what project to work on, take your list of ideas and write them on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Pick one out and go for it. No re-picking. ; )
There are a ton of things you can do if you find yourself in a complete creative block, such as a change of scenery, getting some exercise, grabbing coffee with a friend, looking through magazines, etc. Although while those work for a block, I find they can be a form of procrastination for me if I’m not careful. There are a number of creative thinking resources available online as well.
I picked up Thinkertoys by Michael Michalko a number of years back to help me be more flexible and see opportunities in the midst of challenging work circumstances, but I’ve found the exercises are actually really helpful from a creative art viewpoint. It is aimed at creative business thinking, but the exercises work anywhere your mind is stuck. It also comes in handy in looking at situations in different lights and putting things together that you wouldn’t have originally thought about.
At the end of the day, whatever it is, just DO something. Anything, as small as it may seem. Creativity and inspiration come and go like everything else does, and sometimes you just need to ride out the wave.